World War Z
: I haven't read the Max Brooks novel on which this megabudget Brad Pitt vehicle is based, so I don't have any particular stake in the movie's fidelity, though of course an oral history of a zombie war certainly sounds more interesting than what World War Z
looks like. That is to say, it looks like Pitt, director Marc Forster, and a team of screenwriters have turned the oral history into more of a global-pathogen race-against-the-clock thriller, sort of a Contagion
with zombies. That's a pretty cool idea, too; my beef is more with how crummy the movie's visual scheme looks in the trailer: almost every major effects shot looks computerized and green-screen-y, Pitt has his leading-man hero hair, and the hordes of zombies barely register as such, looking more like garden-variety looters than flesh-devouring bringers of the apocalypse. The whole thing just looks so much like a generic movie, which is an odd choice for a book that apes nonfiction—and a genre (horror, although there's not much traditional horror imagery in the ads) that has gotten so much mileage out of the found-footage conceit.
My real curiosity at this point, as it seems there's a limit to any extremities of terribleness or greatness, is how well a big-scale zombie movie will be able to do at the box office. Pitt in a leading role seems to be able to open just about anything even remotely mainstream save Killing Them Softly, which stands as just about his only wide-release first-weekend under-performer of the past 12 or 13 years. Plus, The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on television. But the top two highest-grossing zombie movies of all time are currently Zombieland and Warm Bodies, two comedies that kid around with genre conventions, and no amount of adjusting for inflation will get the more famous serious zombie movies above them. Then again, this is probably an area where citing precedent gets you into trouble, unless you want to believe that a spectacle-packed action movie with Brad Pitt will open to less than $30 million just because no zombie movie has ever opened bigger. On the other hand, it represents a pretty big stretch for the execs at Paramount (who lately seem happy to go long stretches where they barely release movies at all—indeed, World War Z kicks off four months of silence until they put out Paranormal Activity 4 in October, though they have an enviable late-fall slate consisting of new movies from Scorsese, Payne, Jason Reitman, and Adam McKay) that the movie will need to set a genre record more or less on its first week to set itself on the path to profitability.
: I feel like the Pixar narrative has progressed swiftly from disappointment to panic to acceptance; Cars 2
found fans questioning their faith that Pixar would dare release a middling sequel to one of their least-beloved-by-adults movies (though to be fair, a lot of those people resolved to question their faith over Cars 2
long before they saw it) (and to be double-fair, Cars 2
isn't very good), while Brave
somehow counted as cause for alarm because it's not a four-star instant masterpiece (but it is pretty damn good!). With Monsters University
, routine seems to have set in: this isn't going to be all that great, people seem to be saying, but, you know, it's pretty fun and this is the world we live in now. It is indeed: one where an outfit as creatively and financially spotless as Pixar still needs to shore up its franchises with its third sequel in four years. Finding Nemo 2
is coming, too, though it's in the mix with at least three other non-sequel projects that sound swell. And frankly, I don't object to going to see the delightful yammering green eyeball and adorable fuzzy blue guy bicker and banter around other inventively designed monsters while acting out Revenge of the Nerds
(though it may not be as original a production as Put That Thing Back Where It Came From Or So Help Me
). Actually, I'm pretty excited that I can go watch more monster stuff without undoing the lovely bow tied around the end of Monsters, Inc.
But in general, I prefer the model of reviving beloved Pixar characters for exciting new shorts (a la the Toy Story
gang's post-threequel adventures; "Small Fry" in particular is amazing) over spending the company's fantastic resources on franchise maintenance. Maybe a lot of movie geeks seem to be in a shruggy mood over Monsters University
(in ways both good and bad) because they consider it a palate-cleanser before The Good Dinosaur
comes out next summer.
: The Weinsteins love the old-people-be-musical formula; witness their art-house hit Quartet
, which is just finishing up its run with a better-than-decent $18 million gross. Basically, they got their platform-prestige results without having to engage in actual Oscar campaigning (the movie was bumped from late 2012 into January 2013), and wrung a better gross out of Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut than any number of actual Oscar hopefuls, past and present (My Week with Marilyn
, Blue Valentine
, The Master
... all outgrossed by Quartet
!) (OK, I have to stop looking at these stats because I fear for what happens when the Weinsteins crunch the numbers on Quartet
and find it a more worthwhile investment than The Master
or Killing Them Softly
.) Anyway, the Weinsteins may now be hoping that Unfinished Song
, about a cranky widower (Terence Stamp) joining the choir beloved by his deceased wife (Vanessa Redgrave), plus also something about Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston, turns out to be Quintet
, or Quartet 2: Hurry Up Getting Older
. I'd much rather watch Arterton and Stamp team up to, like, go on the dole and beat the shit out of bad guys or something. But then, I'm an old crank of a different sort.